The lawsuit, consolidated in federal court in Minnesota and by far the largest facing the league, involves more than 100 former players who accused the NHL of failing to better prevent head trauma or warn players of risks while promoting violent play that led to their injuries.
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The total monetary value of the potential settlement was not disclosed. It is expected to be far less than the billion-dollar agreement reached between the NFL and its former players on the same issue; according to a settlement document posted by Forbes last week, the total value is US$18.9 million, which includes $22,000 for each player involved in the lawsuit.
The NHL said it would not acknowledge any liability for any of the players’ claims. A spokesman said there would be no comment until after the opt-in period of 75 days for players.
Attorneys for the retired players say the settlement would include a cash payment for players who choose to participate; neurological testing and assessment for players paid for by the league; an administrative fund to pay for the costs and up to $75,000 in medical treatment for players who test positive on two or more tests.
The settlement would also set up a “Common Good Fund” available to support retired players in need, including those who did not participate in the litigation. The Forbes document said the found would be $2.5 million.
Players who choose not to participate may continue to pursue personal injury claims against the league. But under the terms of the settlement, the NHL has the option to terminate if all players who filed claims or retained counsel don’t participate.
Attorneys with Minneapolis-based law firm Zimmerman Reed said they were pleased because the main goal of the lawsuit was to get retired players medical testing and treatment paid for by the NHL.
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The settlement comes four months after a federal judge denied class-action status for the retired players, a significant victory for the league in the lawsuit filed in November 2013. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in July denied class-action status, citing “widespread differences” in state laws about medical monitoring that would “present significant case management difficulties.”
The bid for class-action status would have created one group of all living former NHL players and one group of all retired players diagnosed with a neurological disease, disorder or condition. Had Nelson certified the class action, more than 5,000 former players would have been able to join the case.
Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed to The Associated Press in September that the two sides had engaged in court-ordered mediation. Bettman said at the time, “We also think the lawsuit doesn’t have merit.”
The NFL settlement covers more than 20,000 retired players, and lawyers expect payouts to top $1.5 billion over 65 years. As of last month, the NFL concussion lawsuit claims panel has approved more than $500 million in awards and paid out $330 million.